Why ACS will continue to fail while children die

Zymere Perkins, 6, was murdered after allegedly using a bucket as a toilet in an apartment that lacked basic amenities. His mother, Geraldine Perkins, 26 and her ex-con boyfriend, Rysheim Smith, were charged in his death, while others have come forward to report that they knew of the abuse the child sustained for years. According to reports, despite five reports to ACS against the mother, ACS dismissed all the reports as unfounded.

Zymere Perkins, 6, was murdered after allegedly using a bucket as a toilet in an apartment that lacked basic amenities. His mother, Geraldine Perkins, 26, and her ex-con boyfriend, Rysheim Smith, 42, were charged in his death, while others have come forward to report that they knew of the abuse the child sustained for years. According to reports, despite five reports made to ACS against the mother, ACS dismissed all the reports as unfounded.

By Carmen Glover

After work obligations caused me to be late more than once in picking up my daughter from after-school at her elementary Catholic school, I finally decided to resign from my high-profile job as press attaché at the Consulate General of Jamaica in New York.

The New York Daily News is not shy about assigning blame in Zymere Perkins' death.

The New York Daily News is not shy about assigning blame in Zymere Perkins’ death.

I immediately took my daughter on a one-month trip to Florida for fun in the sun, then worked as a full-time freelance journalist before deciding to try the social service field, which, despite a significant cut in salary, offered more stable hours. At one point during my hiatus from full-time journalism, I worked for an agency that was contracted with the Administration for Children’s Services, ACS, purportedly to protect vulnerable children and strengthen families that struggled with substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, educational, legal, financial and other challenges.

Zymere Perkin's mother, Geraldine Perkins and her ex-con boyfriend Rysheim Smith were arrested and charged in his murder.

Zymere Perkin’s mother, Geraldine Perkins and her ex-con boyfriend Rysheim Smith were arrested and charged in his murder.

What I saw, however, was quite the opposite. Arrogant and lazy ACS workers looked down on agency workers like me. They conducted haphazard investigations when reports of child abuse and neglect were made. Many of them did not visit the children’s schools, daycare centers or day treatment programs, instead hounding the agency workers for ‘updates’ and proceeding to admonish us when we had none to offer as yet. Most significantly, they staunchly blamed the agency workers when things went wrong, wrapping themselves into the cocoon that the ACS cover provided. The result was that children suffered and died.

I am grateful that in the nine years that I worked in the field no child died from my case load but other workers were not as fortunate. With each report of an innocent child dying at the hands of irresponsible, abusive parents such as the recent case of Zymere Perkins, 6, whose mother Geraldine Perkins, 26, and her ex-con boyfriend Rysheim Smith, 42, allegedly beat him often, my heart weeps, even as I know deep down that it will happen again.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio again expressing condolences and vowing to have committee look into the death.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio again expressing condolences and vowing to have committee look into the death as Zymere Perkins’ death puts the ineffective ACS back into the spotlight for another embarrassing failure.

I can recall countless joint home visits where the ACS staff arrived more than 30 minutes late, bossed us around, checked for food, barked out details about an upcoming conference and then left the home, arriving after I did and leaving before me, barely glancing at the children in the home, much less taking the time to conduct a comprehensive visit to ferret out any problems and zoom in on red flags.

They showed more interest in basking in titles rather than any genuine desire to keep the children safe. Their case notes and reports were sparse, oftentimes they plagiarized my notes. They lacked detailed knowledge about the families but, again, their focus seemed to be designed to belittle the agency workers while elevating themselves, showing scant regard for their innocent charges: the children.

ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion offers no solutions.

ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion offers no solutions as vulnerable children continue to die while inept ACS workers fail to catch the warning signs or respond effectively to reports of abuse and neglect.

At the other end of the spectrum were the parents, many of whom had numerous prior cases to the extent that having involvement with ACS and preventive agencies was a way of life. As soon as they signed up for services they began to ask for things: beds, money, food, Thanksgiving items and Christmas presents. It seemed like a quid pro quo: parents accepted preventive services to avoid a court case with ACS but all through the process the parents’ have one major goal and that is to get as many ‘free’ things as possible from the agency while pretending to agree that they need to change. As soon as the case is closed, they resume their dysfunctional lifestyles, often having another case opened after some time elapses.

Children were routinely told to lie to the workers and when a worker who had investigative background like I did as a journalist, supervisors often became jealous of the worker’s ability to connect the dots. In the meantime, the children suffered, because the agency workers did all the legwork while the ACS workers took the credit, were better paid and declined to provide thorough follow even through they were empowered to do so since they had stronger resources.

Zymere and a pal enjoy ice cream one happy day in his short sad life.

Zymere and a pal enjoy ice cream one happy day in his short sad life.

Then when a child died, City Hall unveiled a multitude of initiatives, uttered ineffective words of comfort until the publicity and furor lessened. Then the next child would die and the vicious cycle was repeated. But there will be no end in sight because there is no system in place to track families long-term after they have contact with ACS. Meanwhile, ACS workers are simply trying to shift the cases from their case load to that of the preventive agency so that they can move on to a new case. Nothing improves and children die.

Perhaps now that I am back to working full-time as a journalist, I can effect some change.–OnPointPress.net–

NYC’s mayoral picks reflect diversity in top posts

Former U.S. Attorney Zachary Carter on Sunday when he was named as the city's new corporation counsel.

Former U.S. Attorney Zachary Carter on Sunday when he was named as the City’s new Corporation Counsel.

By Carmen Glover

When Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is sworn in officially as New York City’s mayor tonight at midnight and again at noon on New Year’s Day, he will do so while having some semblance of a diverse team in place, based on his most recent appointments. African-American former U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn Zachary Carter, 63, has been named as the latest corporation counsel and Latina Carmen Farina has left retirement at age 70 to serve as the schools chancellor, joining another Latina, Gladys Carrion, 62, the new ACS commissioner.  Bill Bratton, 66, has returned for a second go-around as police commissioner and joins first deputy mayor Anthony Shorris, 56, whose appointment was announced by de Blasio a few weeks ago.

Former educator Carmen Farina left retirement to accept the post of Schools Chancellor.

Former educator Carmen Farina, shown flanked by students, left retirement to accept the post of Schools Chancellor.

Although far more posts remain unfilled than filled, the inclusion of individuals from different ethnic groups, who have distinguished themselves in their respective fields, is a positive first step to the new mayoral administration. So far, de Blasio seems to be making cautious but sure steps to ensure that his appointments reflect the diversity of the city’s residents. Also, de Blasio’s statements in announcing the appointments have been encouraging.

Anthony Shorris was named the new first deputy mayor a few weeks ago.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio greets Anthony Shorris, who was named the new first deputy mayor a few weeks ago.

While announcing that Carter will be the new corporation counsel de Blasio expressed his commitment to closing an open wound in the city’s psyche by resolving the Central Park Jogger suit. Acknowledging that an “injustice” occurred, causing five innocent African-American and Latino boys to serve long prison sentences for raping a white jogger before DNA evidence cleared them, de Blasio said he would “settle the Central Park case.” For his part, Carter vowed to use the law “to level the playing field” for all groups.

Gladys Carrion, former chief of the State's Office of Children and Families (OCSF) is now the City's new ACS Commissioner.

New York city’s Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio shares a light moment with, Gladys Carrion, former chief of the State’s Office of Children and Families (OCSF), after announcing that she is  the City’s new ACS Commissioner.

Farina, whose appointment was made yesterday, had a lot to say. She spoke firmly about embracing a “progressive” agenda focused on “teaching not testing.” Farina, who has 40 years of experience in the city school system spanning every level from elementary school teacher to deputy commissioner in the Bloomberg administration, spoke about the need to do things differently.

“We are going to communicate often,” she said, while explaining that her philosophy on teaching versus testing is rooted in the belief that “If we do good teaching that’s the best test prep.” It appeared as if Farina, an immigrant from Spain, was not particularly interested in data-driven results, which could be problematic since data is critical to assessing the performance of students and educators alike. But her passion for education was undeniable, as was Carter’s quiet confidence, born from being a seasoned legal eagle. It remains to be seen if the full menu of de Blasio’s appointments will elicit praise or cause concern but the list so far makes the process seem promising. -OnPointPress.net

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